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Attack of BoA (or Why BoA Could Possibly Have a Successful Crossover in America)

Attack of BoA (or Why BoA Could Possibly Have a Successful Crossover in America)


OMGBoA! So Yum Yum? APA fangirl Kanara Ty meets Asia's pop princess -- and will prove to you why you shouldn't mistake her for the other BoA (Bank of America, that is).

By APA Staff


Interview with BoA
February 23, 2009
Koreatown, Los Angeles

Video by Warren Kenji Berkey
Interview and article by Kanara Ty

In the nine years of her career, she's sold millions of albums and singles, collected numerous awards from the music industry, held successful concert tours, and won the hearts of fanboys and fangirls alike all over Asia. Now BoA has one thing left to do. Conquer the world.

Or well, at least America.

Boa Kwon, or as known to her fans, BoA, broke into the Korean pop scene in 2002 after being accidently discovered by SM Entertainment, which put her through rigorous training for two years, leading to a breakout debut album, ID; Peace B in 2002. From there, she's sold quite well as a pop artist in Asia and is even now considered to be one of Korea's most influential artists.

Like most Japanese pop music fans, I first learned about BoA through the anime Inuyasha, for which she contributed the end theme song, "Every Heart: Minna no Kimochi." At the time, BoA was beginning to pick up in popularity in Japan, and I easily mistook her for just another cute Japanese pop starlet, following in the steps of Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru. She sure fooled me (and maybe a good number of others) -- I couldn't even tell that she was actually from South Korea. BoA's successful crossover from Korea to Japan can be attributed to the fact that she's the product of strong bridges between both SM Entertainment and Avex (Japan). You can argue that BoA's success as an artist is also the result of SM Entertainment's methods of managing (read: manipulating) the images of their artists to be portrayed a certain way to appeal to as many fans as possible.

However, that's just my honest opinion. It's not like I've uncovered some well-hidden secret -- that's just how pop stars are produced in general. But the fact of the matter is BoA's foray into the American pop scene is quite different than what I've seen from past artists who've tried to crossover (Does anyone remember Utada Hikaru's cringeful American debut? Does easy, breezy, Japaneezy come to mind?), and I believe that with the approach she's taking, she'll fare much better than those past attempts.

So, you may ask, what is BoA doing differently?

Prior to the on-record filmed interview I had with Miss Kwon, I had a brief, casual conversation with her -- you know, things like, talking about how cute her shoes were and how tired she was from the entire day. But perhaps the most interesting part was when she turned the tables and commented:

"So I read what you wrote about me."

Now, usually, statements like that don't come up very often, and given BoA's status, I was taken aback and momentarily forgot about what I wrote -- then alas, it came right to me in an instant. It must have been the "Best of 2008" profile I wrote.

"Oh, you mean, about you going to gay clubs?"

"Yes!," she responded. "I was wondering, 'how did she know?'"

Well if you're like me and you're an avid reader of the Korean gossip blog POPSEOUL!, you'd know all about BoA's whereabouts in Los Angeles. BoA's stops included a popular gay club in West Hollywood, a free pre-show appearance at KIIS FM's Jingle Ball held in Anaheim, and a taped performance for MTV Iggy -- a brand new global network for the music television station. Most recently, she held a listening party/autograph session at a full-capacity club at Hollywood nightclub Ritual and is set to make more stops in San Francisco and Las Vegas later in March, following the release of her debut album, BoA, which drops on March 17th.

The thing about the U.S. market is that people aren't nearly tuned into what goes outside this nation of ours, especially when it comes to foreign artists who sing in a foreign language. So the catch is: you have to sing in English, the universal language of...the world. I'll go back to the Utada example, where she basically just dropped Exodus with minimal marketing.  Utada has a strong advantage because she speaks English fluently, but that did not play in her favor at all. Even with the help of power producer Timbaland, Utada's album was met with lukewarm reviews and failed to appeal to the American audience. I sure didn't see Utada making the rounds for her album -- except for some awkward interviews on MTV and CNN.

On the other hand, BoA is targeting exactly where the tweens and pop music lovers are most likely to frequent: concerts and nightclubs. Her sound is different from what we're used to hearing. While her debut single "Eat You Up" is overwhelmed by the sexual innuendo that could (or perhaps should) be taken the wrong way, you can't but notice that beat in the background. It's catchy and bouncy -- and it'll more likely grab someone's attention than a ballad. I feel that what BoA is doing differently is that she's trying to show her skills as both a singer and dancer. In Asia is a balladeer as well as a dancer, but in order for her to reach international pop star status, she has to appeal to the audience both with a different sound and style that's much more marketable.

During the interview, she stressed how she wanted to focus on making dance tracks, rather than ballads. In fact, her upcoming album will feature no ballads at all. She's working with various producers to achieve the "dance pop" sound. Producer/singer/songwriter Sean Garrett, who is currently responsible for her second single, "I Did it For Love" has previously produced chart-topping hits for Usher, Ciara, and Beyonce.

SM Entertainment opened their USA branch in October 2008, with BoA as the first artist on their roster. While we've seen our fair share of Japanese rock and pop stars attempt to cross over in America, I have a feeling we might see even more Korean pop stars making their way here. Daniel Henney, Lee Byung-hyun, and Rain have already made their way onto the silver screen. Even more recently, celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton linked music videos from other Korean artists like Hyori Lee, Wondergirls, and Girls Generation. Not that I think BoA needs recognition from Perez Hilton, but I'm hoping he'll just drop a line for her sometime soon in the future.




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Published: Friday, March 6, 2009